6.20.2013

The Benefits of Flossing



Man, do I suck at imposing structure on myself. It's really hard to be disciplined, and it seems like the smaller the thing, the harder it is to be consistent. I was just talking to my dad about this today and I realized that the most consistent thing in my life, a thing I've done every day now for a year, is flossing.

Back in the fall I decided to cut the BS and start flossing every day. I was sick of having dentists tell me to floss more, I know it's good for me, and it sucks to start doing it because your gums are sensitive at first. So, I decided to just do it every day so that I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. The little bit of time and effort would be worth it because I wouldn't have to spend precious brain resources thinking about how I should be flossing, and feeling bad about failing. Now, I know this is a silly example of self discipline...

It's a very small thing, and by itself it's not going to help me conquer any of the bigger things I want to do. However, it was significant for me because for so many years before I had constantly been piecing everything together every single day. I didn't have consistent time for sleep, eating, exercise, work, friends... the list goes on. The routines I would try to establish were weak, and would fall apart quickly. My motivation would start incredibly strong and then fade to nothing by the next day. Only now am I realizing the true, lasting value of sticking to a routine through thick and thin.

Only through flossing am I learning the higher order level of satisfaction and pleasure that comes with discipline and resolve. There were many times I could have fallen off. The time I ran out of floss and had no plans to leave the house that evening. A trip where I forgot to bring my pack of flossers and could have easily said, "Oh, well..." The times when I was tired, late, busy, or distracted that would have so willingly taken me to my downfall. Through all this, I persevered. Through this, I continued to floss.

Now, I've started other routines since then and I haven't fallen off of all of them. I've been consistently exercising, meditating, and sleeping. However, I find myself squeezing meditation in at any time in the day that it fits, I don't go to jiu jitsu or CrossFit on the same days every week, and I'm still not feeling like I'm getting enough sleep, so there's real improvements to be made. I think the example of flossing works here because even though I don't floss at exactly the same time every day I always do so just before getting into bed and after brushing my teeth. Every single day that's how it goes.

It's this level of dedication and consistency that has lifted the burden of doing the task off my shoulders, so my plan is to implement a more strict routine into some of my other activities. I'm going to pick 2 days a week for jiu jitsu and stick to it. I'm going to find a time every day to meditate and stick to it, and I'm going to develop a sleeping routine where I can lock into a familiar, comfortable, productive pattern and get the sleep I need. I know it might be hard and I may stumble along the way, but flossing has shown me that these kind of routines are worth it.

(Also, oral health can have a huge impact on other parts of health as well, so I'm setting myself up for optimum health and feeling good in other ways, too. Two interesting podcasts on this on Underground Wellness--this interview about healing your mouth and this one about crazy stuff that can live in our mouths.)

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